The YA and Middle Grade Fiction Group discussion

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Author Hotline! > Word count vs. page count

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message 1: by Madeline (new)

Madeline Reynolds | 214 comments Mod
I have heard a lot of debate on this topic recently and wanted to bring this matter to you guys because I value your opinion. When writing a book, is the word count more important or is it more about how many pages that the word count can give you?
Personally, I think that the page count is more important. After all, no reader will just sit there counting your words as they read. However, when someone is buying a book, they are more likely to buy a book that has a good width of pages than a skinny book.


message 2: by Victoria (last edited Dec 06, 2015 03:37PM) (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 191 comments When it comes to actually writing your story, I think it's most important to just write it, and worry about how long it is later. I always think a story should be as long as it's meant to be; a length you won't know until it's written.

However, when it comes to publishing a book, I think if you can't fill more than a certain number of pages (a minimum of 4 or 5 A4 pages, for example) you might want to consider putting your stories together in one book, and doing a short story collection instead.


message 3: by Jen (new)

Jen Garrett | 100 comments For the Reader, page count may be more important, but the publisher will be thinking in terms of word count. Remember, they have to transform your manuscript into a readable book, so they are going to want to know how many words they have to deal with.

Obviously, you enjoy reading, because you are going for that thick book. :) Some target audiences are "reluctant readers" and will hunt out those books with the minimum required pages.

Again, page count is important to readers, word count is important to publishers. So when writing, take Tori's advice and don't worry about either. But if you query an agent or editor, think in terms of word count. If you're going to indy-publish, though, it's OK to think in terms of pages. :)


message 4: by Madeline (new)

Madeline Reynolds | 214 comments Mod
These are all very interesting thoughts! What do you guys think is a reasonable word count for a novel. I am currently at 20,000 words, and I want to know how many more I need.


message 5: by Danielle (new)

Danielle (danielleprice97) I think that the quality of the writing is more important than the amount of words that you write.


message 6: by Victoria (last edited Dec 07, 2015 10:59PM) (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 191 comments Danielle wrote: "I think that the quality of the writing is more important than the amount of words that you write."

My thoughts exactly!


message 7: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 191 comments Jen wrote: "For the Reader, page count may be more important, but the publisher will be thinking in terms of word count. Remember, they have to transform your manuscript into a readable book, so they are going..."

True, though this only applies if you plan to traditionally publish, because if you self-publish it's entirely up to you how many words you think is the right amount.


message 8: by Jen (new)

Jen Garrett | 100 comments Victoria wrote: "True, though this only applies if you plan to traditionally publish, because if you self-publish it's entirely up to you how many words you think is the right amount. "

Right, I was referring to traditional publishers mostly. If you self publish, word count may be important, but only because you've got to figure out how many pages the book will print out to.


message 9: by Jen (new)

Jen Garrett | 100 comments Madeline wrote: "These are all very interesting thoughts! What do you guys think is a reasonable word count for a novel. I am currently at 20,000 words, and I want to know how many more I need."

If you are writing a middle grade that you want to be traditionally published, then shoot for 30,000-50,000 words. If it's a YA, though, normal range is 50,000-80,000 words.

But like Tori and Danielle said, worry more about the quality of the writing and story than the word count.

These ranges don't come out of nowhere, however. It actually takes about that many words to write a fully developed novel. If you find yourself significantly short of the range, I suggest looking for plotholes, flat characters, or underimagined worlds. Or maybe you need another subplot. Still can't figure out what's missing? Maybe you actually have a short story or novella on your hands rather than a full-blown novel.


message 10: by Madeline (new)

Madeline Reynolds | 214 comments Mod
My story is about 20,000 words. Do you have any other ideas about how to lengthen it? I already added a subplot, but I guess I could go into more detail on the characters' desires.


message 11: by Jen (last edited Dec 22, 2015 07:49PM) (new)

Jen Garrett | 100 comments Have you had critique partners read it? Have you set it aside for about a week and then printed it out (yes, print it!) and read it straight through?

Have you tried a character sketch on each character, even the minor ones? What are their emotional holes, why and how do they interact with the main character? Does the main character ever learn about those holes? Why and how or why not? How is the main character's inner journey related to the external conflict?

What's your "save the cat" moment? What's your climax? What's your main character's greatest desire, hope, and fear? Are all these SHOWN to us (rather than told)?

Do we see the world through the proper lens? Is that lens in focus? Do we have enough details to feel like we're there, and also feel the emotional tone in the atmosphere?

All these are rhetorical questions to help you spot places where you need more.


message 12: by Madeline (new)

Madeline Reynolds | 214 comments Mod
Thanks Jen!


message 13: by A.T. (new)

A.T. Baron | 4 comments My daughter and I were just discussing this yesterday. She was comparing two books from the library by the page count to determine which was better.

After I laughed, I reminder the number of pages can be deceiving. There could be a bunch of front and back matter, which are not part of the story.

When it comes to publishing, the word count will always matter more, especially when writing for a specific age group. Though, there can be exceptions.

When it comes down to it, what really matters is the content. You need to write a good story. Some great stories are long; some are short. If you are a slow reader, you might opt for a shorter version. If you are like my daughter, who finishes a "thick" book in two days, go long.

Honestly, she's a book junkie, and I would get her help if I wasn't such an enabler.


message 14: by Jen (new)

Jen Garrett | 100 comments A.T. wrote: "...
Honestly, she's a book junkie, and I would get her help if I wasn't such an enabler."


From one book junkie mom to another. ;)


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